Conference Debate EU-Turkey: Integration of Refugees, Migration Deal and Future Relations

This week a high-level conference at the Brussels Press Club heard of the urgent need to raise awareness of the causes and effects of current migration crises. The event was organised by Brussels-based Dialogue for Europe (DfE) in cooperation with the Ankara-based European Union and Global Research Organisation (ABKAD), and moderated by DfE founder and director Eli Hadzhieva.

Bulgarian Member of the European Parliament's Renew Group, and Co-President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, who had originally planned to host the event within the parliament itself, although this was not to be due to COVID restrictions, spoke of the urgent need for alignment of EU-Turkey foreign policy, migration, and security policies. "Civil society has an important role to play in raising awareness about both the causes and the positive effects of migration," he said.

He emphasised the need to "achieve better mutual understanding, and to bring citizens and different cultures, political and different economic systems, closer together."

His sentiments were echoed by fellow speakers including Turkey's former Ambassador to the EU Selim Kuneralp, Professor Hatice Yazgan, Secretary-General of ABKAD, and Samuel Veterbye, Managing Director of the European Neighbourhood Council, Belgium.

Koert Debeuf, Editor of EUobserver and Research Associate at the Vrije Universities Brussels (VUB) Belgium, referred to his own experiences in Northern Syria in 2012-13. He gave moving eye-witness testimony of overcrowding in refugee camps, food shortages, and in particular the effects on children in the camps.

In the context of current situations, such testimony becomes most relevant, the conference agreed.

The only food there was for one meal. They didn't know how they were gonna feed the people for the next day.... How can such people survive? Not just this one day, but also the next day? There were 8,000 children in that camp.

Koert Debeuf, Editor of EUobserver.

By 2020, Debeuf pointed out, 6.8 million Syrians had fled their country. More than 3.5million, he emphasised, have been settled in Turkey.

Europe, he postulated, whilst advocating resettlement of vulnerable refugees in "the region", appears not so keen on resettlement in Europe itself.

Prof. Yazgan discussed Turkey's migration management legislation, citing it as an example of the EU influencing Turkish policy in a positive way. However, she went on to say that EU-Turkey co-operation appears at the moment to be "downgraded" to just the issue of migration, with little progress currently being seen in the matter of Turkey's possible accession to the EU.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

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